|Members of Suspended Cirque hang tight. Suspended Cirque will perform at the Boston Center for the Arts’ fundraiser on June 2 under the dome of the Cyclorama. (Photo courtesy of Alden Fulcomer)
The Suspended Cirque is performing at the Cyclorama in Boston June 2 at the Boston Center for the Arts’ (BCA) annual fundraiser. An aerial show sure to delight the crowd, the cirque’s “UnTamed: The Wild Underground” integrates aerial acrobatics, theater, choreography, music, dance and circus acts.
The show is unique, much like the offerings of the BCA whose programming and services have doubled under the leadership of Executive Director Veronique LeMelle.
LeMelle made her way to Boston after working in Louisiana as the executive director of the Louisiana Division of Arts. Through her work there she helped artists put their lives back together post-Katrina.
Now, her focus is to help breathe new life into the BCA.
“My work as a public funder has helped me to look at things more holistically, when making decisions,” she said. “ I’m marrying my experiences and I’m able to look at the ecology of the institution.”
A nonprofit organization that seeks to sustain serious artists and to bring them into contact with the public, the BCA serves arts audiences through exhibitions, live performances and community events. It supports artists through affordable studio, rehearsal and performance space. The BCA campus is home to hundreds of working artists, as well as several nonprofit arts and educational groups that provide a wide spectrum of services.
LeMelle, a native of New York, is always looking for ways to make art more accessible to the public. One of the newest initiatives is Occupy 539. Artists are encouraged to think about ways in which people congregate and linger in public spaces. They’re asking artists to submit proposals for an installation that will be on display on the BCA Plaza Campus from July 11-Oct. 11.
LeMelle is also working to make sure different groups of people are being represented at the BCA. She grew up in a neighborhood rich in diversity and her green eyes dance when she talks about it.
“I’m used to all kinds of people being in every place,” she said. “I want to foster and grow cultural diversity at the BCA.”
Klare Shaw — senior advisor for the Arts at EdVestors, which supports the Boston Public Schools Arts Expansion Initiative — will receive the Arts Champion Award at the BCA’s fundraiser. Her knowledge of and work in the arts communities in Boston are part of what led LeMelle to relocate to Boston two years ago. Like LeMelle, Shaw says she believes art helps foster multi-cultural connections.
“The BCA is an important destination to communities of color especially when it comes to issues of access and representation,” said Shaw.
Both Shaw and LeMelle have noticed that the resident and emerging theater companies are attracting very diverse audiences when you look at them collectively.
“The arts are helping to change the city … to expose people to a different world view,” LeMelle said. “People are willing to try new experiences. I think the arts demystifies change.”
Though the BCA offers myriad programs, LeMelle still feels there’s more to do.
“Going forward, I don’t want more of the same,” LeMelle said. “I want more. We just received a Ford Foundation grant and we’re looking to expand. We need to improve how we use space.”
A simple but brilliant example of what she means is the “Community Windows” project.
“In between exhibitions, people don’t realize that we have to physically rip the place apart,” she explained. “It’s a messy experience. The Mills Gallery is visible to passersby on the street because of the large windows. Now we partner with schools and adult centers or other community organizations and allow them to use the windows to display art between exhibitions.”
The BCA is a bustling campus inside, but there’s not much indicating that on the outside. LeMelle is working on securing funding for digital signage, to make the campus easier to navigate. She wants a list of happenings so people having dinner next door or across the street might pop in for a show or to check out an exhibit.
“I want the BCA to be a place where people meet up and hangout,” LeMelle said. “I want musicians and dancers to drop by because they know there’s a space here. You know how a beehive vibrates with activity? I want this place to feel like that. I want it to buzz with energy!”
Tickets for “UnTamed” are $175 for VIP Admission that includes reserved seating, pre-show supper and post-show dessert reception. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
General Admission tickets for “UnTamed” are $50. General seating and post-show dessert reception. Doors open at 8 p.m.
Proceeds from the evening will benefit visual, performing and community programs at the BCA.
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